Protesters gather outside the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011.
Andy Manis/AP

The GOP gains that may matter most weren’t in the Senate

The Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate has received all kinds of attention, and for good reason – major national institutions do not change party control often, and the fact that the GOP has been rewarded with so much congressional power will have real consequences for the nation and possibly the world.
The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/6/14, 11:06 PM ET

GOP tightens grip on state legislatures

Rachel Maddow shows how another consequence of the 2014 midterm elections is that Republicans took significantly more seats in state legislatures around the country.
But to appreciate the scope of the Republicans’ 2014 victory, it’s just as important, if not more so, to focus on state capitols, not the U.S. Capitol. Reid Wilson reported overnight on a conservative state senator in West Virginia who left the Democratic Party yesterday to become a Republican, and in the process gave control of the West Virginia House of Delegates to its new GOP majority. It further cements an astonishing sweep of controlling state policymaking from coast to coast.
When new legislators are sworn in next year, Republicans will control 68 of 98 partisan legislative chambers around the country, six more than their previous high-water mark, which came after 2011 elections in Mississippi.
Republicans have total control – meaning the legislature and the governor’s mansion – in 24 states, compared with just six states in which Democrats control all levers of the legislative process.
As a practical matter, it’s arguably 25 states, since Nebraska has a new Republican governor and its unicameral legislature, for all intents and purposes, is run by a GOP majority.
What’s more, this doesn’t include several states that were run by a Democratic majority, but where state government is now divided.
This matters more than much of the country probably realizes.
Rebecca Leber noted, for example, that Americans can expect to see a new round of restrictions on reproductive rights. I would also assume new voter-suppression measures are very likely.
Indeed, let’s not forget New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) recently admitted he wants his Republican Party controlling “voting mechanisms” and “counting those votes” cast by Americans.
Libby Nelson had a great piece on this, too, noting that Democrats now control the smallest number of state governments since the Civil War: “This is a big deal – for the day-to-day lives for people in those states, and for the outcome of elections in years to come.”
Obviously, federal laws, by definition, affect the whole country, but to overlook Republican dominance in state capitols is to miss an important aspect of American government. On everything from health care to voting, reproductive rights to guns, taxes to education, there’s an enormous amount of policymaking being done at the state level that matters to our daily lives.
And as of this week, that policymaking has taken another far-right turn in more than half the country.

Midterm Elections 2014

The GOP gains that may matter most weren't in the Senate